The Edward Mellen Press: Lewiston, NY, 1998. 114 pp + index. ISBN 0-7734-8284-9. $69.95.There may not be a surname better known to students of chemistry than Lewis, from the Lewis electron-dot diagrams and the Lewis theory of acids and bases. More advanced students may know of the groundbreaking textbook Thermodynamics, by Lewis and Randall. Yet few Americans know much about this remarkable U.S.-born scholar, whose contributions equal those of the greatest scientists. He is a chemist-educator of whom we should be as proud and as well informed as we are of Linus Pauling, who was part of the westward movement of science in this country that G. N. Lewis began, or of the recently deceased Glenn Seaborg, who was one of the many students of Lewis who achieved renown. Gilbert N. Lewis was born in Weymouth, Massachusetts, in 1875, but his family moved to near Lincoln, Nebraska, in 1884. He spent two years at the University of Nebraska, but then moved to Harvard when his father became an executive at Merchants Trust Company in Boston. Young Lewis (then only 17) was also said to have been disappointed with the quality of education in Nebraska, and this may have been part of the impetus for the family's move east. After earning his baccalaureate at Harvard, he taught for a year at Phillips Andover Academy before returning to Harvard to study for his doctorate, which he completed 100 years ago, in 1899, under T. W. Richards. Lewis's doctoral work was on the thermodynamics of zinc and cadmium amalgams. At that time, physical chemistry was only beginning to achieve recognition as a branch of science, and its boundaries were ill defined. Edward Lewis quotes his father as often saying, "Physical chemistry is anything interesting." Like many chemists of his time, Lewis went to Europe to complete his preparation for a career; he was in the laboratories of Ostwald in Leipzig and Nernst in Göttingen in 1900-1901. On his return to the United States, he was an instructor at Harvard until 1904, when he accepted a position that would not be considered a shrewd career move: Superintendent of Weights and Measures in Manila, Philippines! He was there only one year, but it was apparently a productive time, both in a minimally equipped laboratory and with the possible nascence of some of his ideas about bonding. In 1905, Lewis accepted a staff position at MIT, under A. A. Noyes, where he remained until 1912. At MIT, he continued his experimental work on thermodynamic systems and the development of modern thermodynamics, following the lead of J. W. Gibbs, whose work was being largely ignored by other chemists. As Noyes moved increasingly into administrative responsibilities, Lewis took over more and more of the supervision of scientific work in the laboratory. It was the capable job that he did for Noyes that led to his being offered a Professorship and Chair of the College of Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley. The same spirit of adventure that took Lewis to Manila may be what led to his moving to scientifically backward California. In 1912, there was no serious science going on the Left Coast, and Berkeley was isolated from the nearest civilization (Chicago) by days of travel. Lewis initiated the expansion of great science westward, not only to Berkeley, but also to Caltech (in those days Throop Institute), UCLA, and Stanford. By dint of his contributions to thermodynamics and bonding theory (suggesting that electrons bond in pairs, long before there was quantum mechanical justification for such a strange idea), and his organizational and leadership talents, he turned the Berkeley Chemistry Department from a nonentity into one of the finest anywhere. Later in his career, he contributed to the understanding of the role of isotopes in chemistry and physics. This biography includes a useful listing of Lewis's 168 scientific publications. In an age when many renowned scientists have multiples of this number, it is perhaps good to be reminded that quality counts, too. His story deserves much greater recognition (he should have won a Nobel of his own) and I am happy to see the appearance of this biography. On the other hand, it is unfortunate that a better book did not result from the author's heartfelt best intentions. Edward Lewis covers his father's career in barely over 100 pages of uninspiring prose. Ten percent of that is wasted in printing letters from famous scientists, many of them Lewis's students and Nobel laureates, endorsing the greatness of their colleague. Even the title of the book is off-putting: if the subject of a biography is "distinguished", it should not be necessary to make the claim in the title. I also wonder at the price of this slim volume. In the more than fifty years since Lewis died in 1946, nearly all of his students have also died. Even his chemist son had difficulty in finding contemporaries of his father who could provide recollections and original material for the history. The best of his sources is this Journal, which published in January-March issues of 1984 the proceedings of a symposium on the life and work of G. N. Lewis that had been held March 30-31, 1982, in Las Vegas. I recommend those papers, by Derek Davenport, Richard Lewis (G. N.'s other chemist son), John Servos, Melvin Calvin, Glenn Seaborg, Gerald Branch, Leo Brewer, Kenneth Pitzer, Jacob Bigeleisen, Anthony Stranges, Linus Pauling, William Jensen, and Michael Kasha.